Leslie returns to Cougars bench

Virden’s Troy Leslie is back as the Southwest Cougars U18 bench boss.

The Elkhorn product had been the head coach of the regional male AAA hockey team in 2003-

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2012. The former head coach of the Virden Oil Capitals (2012-2019) of the Manitoba Junior

Hockey League steps in for Dennis McNish, who resigned after guiding the squad for the past

six seasons.

This spring the Cougars were to host the Telus Cup Western Regional Championship, which is a

qualifier for the national championship. It was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but

Southwest will have the opportunity to host in 2021 in Virden.

“With the team hosting again this year, it seemed like a really good fit,” said Leslie, who noted

that he will also be taking a teaching position in Virden. “It’s good because it keeps me in

Virden. We love the community here.”

Leslie has a strong connection to the Telus Cup Western Regional event with the Cougars. In

2000, he was in his first season as an assistant coach with the Southwest under Del Pederick,

when the team hosted the tournament in Souris. In 2012, after Leslie guided the Cougars to the

Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League finals in back to back seasons, the team hosted the event in

Virden. Leslie said it will be exciting to be part of it again.

“I think it’s going to be a process where we want to be a real good team when that time comes,”

Leslie said.

As well as the Western Regional, Leslie has coached in other “short-term” tournaments such as

the Canada Winter Games and 1World Under 17 Championships. In these events, he said “It’s

basically a full season compressed into three or four days.”

“It is important to try to keep your team to stay in the moment,” Leslie said. “A lot of different

things can happen with injuries and stuff. All of a sudden, you have guys moving up and down

your lineup and trying to fulfill different roles. You have to be well prepared. You go into the

tournament with a plan and have everything in place and be prepared to try to keep your guys in

the moment and having guys be able to go up and down your lineup and take on different roles.”

He is pleased to be back with the Cougars organization. Leslie has fond memories from his

previous time with the team.

“We were able to have some pretty good groups (of players) come through there … The parent

groups we had were outstanding. With (president) Grant Moffatt running the whole thing, it was

always a really good situation to be in. It helped me develop as a coach when I started. It just

seemed like a really nice fit for me to keep giving back.”

One aspect of the U18 level that Leslie really enjoys is player development. He said, “Watching

when the light comes on is really great.”

“I was given the advice when I first started to always make sure it is not what you as a coach

bring to your team but what your team brings to you and then you have to develop a plan for

them in terms of what is the best fit for them – both in terms of individuals and as a team.

“That’s stuff I’ve always been interested in – taking a group of players and looking at what their

strengths are and helping them get better and also bringing them together and helping them play

well as a unit.”

After coaching seven seasons in the MJHL, Leslie said he hopes he has learned some things that

will help players reach the junior level. Leslie led the Oil Capitals to the 2018 MJHL finals. He

has helped a number of former Oil Capitals go on to the university and pro levels.

“The one thing you notice with them is their commitment to being good every day,” Leslie said.

“The one thing I would like to pass on to kids is if you want to be a hockey player, it is an every

day thing. You have to work hard at it daily and be committed to it.”

© Virden Empire-Advance